A proposed development in Harrison near Volkswagen that includes a convenience store and more than 200 apartments is being met with resistance from surrounding residents.
Regardless, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission members recommended to rezone about 15 acres of vacant land at 5613 Clark Road, off Highway 58, from R-1 residential to C-2 convenience commercial and R-3 residential at the monthly planning commission meeting on Monday.
Mike Price with MAP Engineers spoke on behalf of the owner and applicant, N & R Properties, at the meeting, stating the proposed development includes 234 apartment units and a convenience store from a regional chain.
At 17.4 units per acre, several residents in the community showed up in opposition of the development at the planning commission meeting, stating traffic is already dangerous in the area and schools are already overcrowded.
Mark Hinson, a resident of Clark Road, said there are already 777 units within about 3.5 miles of the area and ten convenience stores within 5.5 miles of the proposed development.
Price said the owners did a market study and felt the area could benefit from another convenience store, though.
"Some of the convenience stores are older in nature and maybe aren't as new as they once were," he said.
Sue Lowery also spoke in opposition of the development, saying she and her husband have lived on Clark Road for 35 years. Lowery said about 138 people had signed a petition against the development.
While that's not a lot of signatures, Lowery said she feels it speaks to the character of the neighborhood, which is mostly low-density residential and more rural.
"It's a beautiful apartment complex, but I just don't think it's the right spot for it," she said.
Price said based on what was said at a community meeting, the developers and residents are in agreement about the need for a working traffic light on Clark Road and Highway 58. He said more than 100 people turned out for the community meeting.
With the new Harrison Elementary School being built in the area, Price said it would "irresponsible" of the city to not turn the traffic signal on.
The new elementary school will have a capacity of approximately 880 students with 80 classrooms and is slated to open for the August 2021 school year. One resident said the traffic light was installed a few years ago but never turned on.
"We think that will help create safer access in and out of Clark Road and safer access for this development," Price said.
The proposed apartment complex includes the addition of 422 parking spaces, and the additional cars could be dangerous for children playing in the area, residents said. Price said there will be a fence around the complex as well as green space, a children's playground and dog park.
Planning Agency Executive Director John Bridger said one of the main reasons the staff recommended approval — with conditions — is because it is compatible with the county-wide Comprehensive Plan. Bridger said the development is within a few miles of Volkswagen, one of Hamilton County's employers with more than 3,000 workers and plans to add 1,000 more jobs with the addition of an electric vehicle line.
Bridger said one of the benefits of having housing next to jobs is that it minimizes a lot of cars on the road as opposed to people commuting long distances. A standard bus line does not extend that far out, but there is a dedicated shuttle route that goes to Volkswagen and Enterprise South.
Planning commissioners approved a recommendation for the rezoning with conditions — some being added by the developer based on comments at the community meeting.
Some of the conditions include the addition of a 5-foot fence around the apartment complex and a pedestrian path that will connect the apartments to the convenience store. Commissioner Mary Kay Hiatt was the only commissioner to vote in opposition to the rezoning request.
The parcel at Clark Road was annexed by the city so City Council members will vote on the rezoning request at their July 9th meeting.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.